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back to article Court bars charges against teen who posed semi-nude

A federal appeals court rebuked a Pennsylvania district attorney who threatened to file felony child pornography charges against teens who were photographed semi-nude unless they attended an "education program." In a unanimous decision issued Wednesday by the appeals court in Philadelphia, a three-judge panel said the threat …

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Bravo the Appeals Court!

At last someone is starting to apply a little common sense to this "problem" and realising that criminalising kids for doing what kids do (you show me yours...) helps nobody!

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Go

At last!

Someone gets some sense out of all this. May I remind the retard DA that cases like this allow nasty guys to coerce kids into performing sexual acts against their will, like that teenager who recently got 15 yrs in the slammer, also in the US.

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Anonymous Coward

Never about child protection...

.... this was always about petty power and the lowest common denominator of American politics. Self-righteousness seems to be bred into the bone of the American nation these days. Thank heavens there still seem to be a few sensible people.

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Anonymous Coward

Someone gained...

And a nice chunk of money for someone when the case hits court. "Ought for nought!" as they say!

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Big Brother

Wear your Burqa and shut up...

...a message from your friendly bigoted DA.

Why is the USA liberating the women of Afghanistan again?

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Happy

Those are not afghan rules

they are saudi arabian :-)

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Jobs Horns

Taliban and Republicans Too

While the Taliban was in charge, the burqua was required of women in Afghanistan, beards were required of men, and dancing and singing were banned.

There are those in every culture and in every country who want to force others to live by their rules and believe they are being oppressed and discriminated against if forced to live side by side with those who choose to live by other rules. Thus we get people in so called "free" societies who would impose penalties upon others for practices that cause no harm but merely offend the sensibilities of some. We find that usually, perhaps invariably, those who are most adamant about imposing moral sanctions upon others are steeped in unethical and even criminal activity. This was true of Taliban leaders. It is true of many a DA and many a politician in the U.S.A.

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Anonymous Coward

One wag pointed out that...

One wag pointed out that it didn't make sense to worry about children being exposed to naked breasts, when you consider their fundamental purpose.

And I'll point out that these supposed 'moralistic crusaders' often turn out to be the most perverted freaks in the town (not that there's anything wrong with that...). Their too common hypocrisy is the point.

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WHAT A PERV!

"When the parent of the girl who posed in her bathing suit publicly complained, Skumanick responded that she was posing "provocatively" and concluded by saying: "These are the rules. If you don't like them, too bad." (Skumanick is no longer District Attorney.)"

Ex-DA Skumanick found her posing provocative?!? WHAT A PERV!

And then he threatened to punish them for being the targets of his lust? WHAT A SICKO!

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It's a one off

To me it almost seems that Skumanick had only decided to punish the girls after he'd knocked one off over the pictures and then got all guilty and repentant afterwards.

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Coat

That could be "spot" on..

.. if you pardon the pun

Mine's the one with the pack of tissues, thanks.

Boot note: the problem is not an easy one to solve, given that a lot of child abuse is exactly by those you'd expect to protect kids. I've heard of facial biometrics picture analysis that proved that fathers were grooming their own kids for each other, and I can see that as something any decent person would want to act on. However, until there is a way to separate a good parent from a bad one I don't think legislation will be a solution (look how long it took Catholic priests to be caught).

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Badgers

That's Something Anyway

Even if the decision won't necessarily apply to other cases at least the Pennsylvania court has added a moment of reason to the issue. Hopefully it helps.

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Paris Hilton

Sorry Solomon

It was a federal court....not state. So PA is still as fucked as the DA. Though i do wonder where the resignation letter is. Might make for interesting reading.

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Prosecuting the wrong people

Oh look kiddies take pictures of themselves with no clothes on, if I confiscate their phone and go through the pictures then I can see the little girlies in the nude. ...

Surely they should be investigating the indiscriminate searching of children's phone in the hope of finding indecent pictures of the owners of the phone. This looks more like a case should be brought against the school authorities than the kids. To me it sounds like a load of grumpy frustrated old farts grumbling that the kids today are enjoying themselves more than they were allowed to do. Tough! get a life of your own rather than trying to wreck other peoples.

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Pint

Kids do stupid things, they learn that way!

Well said!

Kids do stupid things! How else do we learn? When I was 5 I jumped out of moving car at 15 miles and hour, bounced across a car park and Mum went berserk, dragged me to hospital, got a check up and she spent weeks lecturing me about being stupid with car doors!

Yes kids do need a slight slap on the wrist and "send to bed with no supper", just to ensure they understand it's not really acceptable, but this aged old perv trying to feast his eyes on young flesh then dragging it through the courts to asuage his guilt? Way out of line and way overboard!

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That's one perspective

But the girl's mother is of the opinion (which I happen to agree with) that it wasn't wrong at all. Maybe no wise, given that there creeps like Mr. Skum and his successor out there, but not wrong. A key part of the argument for this restraining order what that she had been deprived of the right to raise her children as she sees fit.

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Whaddaya know.

There *is* intelligent life in the US. Well, one person anyway.

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Three, at least actually

It was a three-judge panel after all. The parents too exhibited intelligence in fighting this.

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Paris Hilton

Say buddy.. What happened to you?

I wouldn't worry about that too much, they're on a program to breed it out.

Paris, the target of much genetic material.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: Whaddaya know

There's plenty of intelligent life in the US. Unfortunately, not so much in positions of power.

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Paris Hilton

Sexualizing kids

So under the first amendment, kids have the right to sexualise themselves, because it's under the banner of free speech/expression. Right. Got it. Free speech/expression but no voyeurism.

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Right to free speech

You misunderstand.

The federal judges didn't uphold that sexting was protected by free speech, but that the DA's deal violated their free speech, as it amounted to a gagging order on protesting their innocence. The judges ruled that as this amounted to coercion to forego their constitutional rights, the entire prosecution was invalid.

Cases get thrown out of court all the time for police procedural errors (failing to read rights, mishandling of evidence etc) and this is the same thing, but with the mishandling at the level of the judiciary.

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Muppet

All teenagers get "sexualised" it's called puberty.

If they didn't the species would die out in a generation.

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Can you get a life?

For f*** sake, in that case 97% of the continental EU teenagers need to be sent to jail and the key thrown away and I somehow do not see all this "sexualisation" doing them anything bad in particular.

Anglo-saxon people and especially the USA ones really need to get out more. Preferably to a German inhabited beach around the Mediterranean. For therapeutic purposes....

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Anonymous Coward

ha

at the rate we are going as species are you saying it would be a bad thing?

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No and yes... but still no

No, because the reasoning in this case was more complicated. And dealt with the fact the "education" program would have required the girls to write an essay about "why what they did was wrong", which is compelled speech. And the fact that the prosecutor threatened to retaliate if the exercised their constitution right not to speak by procecuting them for child pornography. And the fact that the prosecutor could not show probably cause(!) for the prosecution, leaving relation as the only explanation.

But yes, I think in due time it will be recognized that the law as it stands is an unacceptable restriction on young people's freedom of speach.

Except no, the way you described it is still a logical impossibility. You have to be sexual in order to sexualize something, and you have to be nonsexual to be sexualized, hence a person cannot do it to his or her self (short of timer travel).

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Stop

Rights?

"failed to read their rights"

What rights?

There's the Miranda WARNING, but it's not a "right".

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Unhappy

Don't criticise too soon...

At least in the US there is a written constitution to reign in the excesses of the judiciary, executive and legislature. Here in Britain the constitution and any law can be changed by any goverment with a sufficient majority, whether or not that parliamentary majority represents a majority of the voters (and it hasn't done for a long time).

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Stop

But so can the Constitution (and has been)

Take the 26th amendment for example, which says that anyone 18 or older cannot be denied the vote - Not that it made any difference when Bush 2.2 illegally and unconstitutionally prevented Florida votes which would have given Florida to Al Gore and therefore the presidency.

So not only can the Consittution be changed, it can also be completely ignored, it's just propaganda to think that it means anything at all.

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I wish that were true...

But sadly the US are already way further down the route of excessive, hysterical overreaction to the Paedogeddon than we are jn the UK (although we are, of course, heading in exactly the same direction). In the US to be accused of looking at 'inappropriate' pics of 'children' (definitions of what qualifies both vary wildly by state) is a life-sentence punished in the most extreme and unforgiving ways imaginable; there is no room for rehabilitation for the super-criminal once having been found guilty of this Most Serious Of Offences.

Chased out of home and job, often cut off from family and from wider society, humiliated publicly and shunned, the US authorities relentlessly punish and re-punish their sex offenders (looking at an inappropriate picture), as well as dishing out some of the most ludicrous and downright inhuman prison sentences imaginable.

Don't put too much faith in that written Constitution. It fails miserably to protect anyone when it comes to curbing the untrammeled excesses of legislators, politicians and police involved - and promoting - the modern-day witchunt for paedomonsters.

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Grenade

Written Constitution

In the UK there is also a written constitution. It is called the Magna Carta and is the first written constitution, and the one on which all other major written constitutions are based. You are missing the key difference. The key difference is that it is far harder to amend the US constitution, requiring both a super majority in the legislature, and a super-majority amongst state-legislatures. As such the US constitution is now hideously outdated on many things.

Don't forget also that in the US there is no requirement for either the president or the legislatures to be a majority of voters. In fact it is perfectly feasible (mathematically) for an amendment to pass without being supported by a majority of voters. 2/3 of each house is required. 2/3 of the senate, if all senators from the smallest states vote for it, is a very small minority of the total population. For the house, 2/3 of the members could easily be voted in by the support of 1/3 of the country. Finally ratification involves receiving support from 75% of the states - again if the smallest 3/4 supports an amendment, that is less than 50% of the country.

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FAIL

And here we go again

How many times were the Florida votes recounted? How many times did Gore come up short? All the wrangling and courts and wishful thinking by the left does not change the fact than not a single recount of votes brought Gore closer than 236 of being president.

I thought he was a shitty president too. But seriously let us at least get our facts right.

Fail: Because every time you whine about this you bring less credibility to a real argument against the politics many of us disagree with.

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Megaphone

Constitution? Magna Carta?

Ooh, a chartist!

Magna Carta isn't a written constitution, though it does contain elements that would later be incorporated into the constitution of the United States and many of their state constitutions.

We don't have a written constitution. We have several documents and treaties that together form our constitution: magna carta, the acts of settlement, the Act of Union and the parliamentary Bill of Rights, which several of our erstwhile representatives have recently tried to resurrect in order to avoid prosecution for fiddling their expenses. Our constitution is largely statute-based, which is why it's often referred to as unwritten.

The big problem is that people don't know about this. Ask the average person on the street what they think about magna carta and they'll ask if it's that classical music record label *if you're lucky*. They might think it's a spanish football team. Without that knowledge of how our government was established, it is impossible to prevent the government from going beyond the bounds set for it by those documents. The Bill of Rights is a good example, as it guarantees certain things (including the right to own guns as long as you aren't a catholic, and the limitation on unfair taxation without legislation enacting that taxation - bye bye nearly every non-criminal penalty charge in existence!) that have subsequently been overridden by successive governments. The problem is that the Bill of Rights establishes Parliament, and isn't an Act of Parliament but a treaty. Overriding it removed the constitutional basis for Parliament to legislate, which means that current moves to use the concept of Parliamentary Privilege as established in the Bill of Rights means that either the Bill of Rights is supreme, in which case nearly every piece of legislation for the past 100-odd years is invalidated, or that the Bill of Rights must be struck down, in which case every piece of legislation since 1668 is invalid.

As for the US Senate, as per their constitution that body was meant to represent the States, not the population as a whole. The house of representatives represents the people. The Senate was meant to act as a brake on populist legislation, a body of oversight similar to the House of Lords (probably the only marginally functional part of our own legislature left) and was meant to consider bills produced by the House and re-write them, or block them, before they went to be signed by the president. This is why their constitution includes a requirement for the senate and house bills on any subject to be worded identically before they can be signed into law.

A constitutional amendment requires two thirds of both the house and the senate, but even that would just call a constitutional convention. Constitutional convention then requires a two-thirds majority of all the states.

You see the constitution governed the Union of the States, not the sun-total of the population, which is why it was originally so small. The individual states governed their own populations as they saw fit, as long as they didn't breach the articles and amendments of the Bill of Rights, which restricted the state to the smallest possible functional level by intention. The Federal government was meant to function as primarily an arbiter of the collective position of the States towards common problems and international issues and so in the constitution its powers and roll were very strictly limited. The expansion of the role of the federal government since the 1890s has resulted in a situation where the federal government has already broken past its constitutional limits many times, which is why you often hear references to the constitution being a "living document", not to mention a great deal of resentment amongst the elected representatives of the people and the states that a document written by a bunch of "dead old white guys" still has enough potency to limit their aspirations for absolute power.

Our "unwritten constitution" has lost that potency. Most criticism of the US from our side of the atlantic seems to be blinkered by an inability to understand how little freedom we have left compared to them, or perhaps a profound case of denial at just how restricted our lives are. Yes, their government is moronic these days, and they are pushy and loud, but they still have their constitutionally guaranteed rights. What do we have? Mandelson's muppetry and Ms Hillier's ID cards. I personally break the law several times a day doing things that are still considered to be inviolable rights in any functional society, but which have been rendered illegal here simply because the government of the day decided that it could do so. Criticism of America for problems that are even worse here smacks of a little bit of projection, I reckon, especially as we have no mechanism for restricting the activities of the state when it reaches too far. Think about that next time you're criticising the US. They may not exercise it all the time but they have that option to declare acts of the state unconstitutional. Do we? No. Even the much vaunted human rights act is filled with so many caveats and contradictions to make it useless for anything other than forcing people to comply with whatever positivist "rights" are the current politically correct whim.

Face it. We're fucked.

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Re: And here we go again

>>How many times were the Florida votes recounted? How many times did Gore come up short? All the wrangling and courts and wishful thinking by the left does not change the fact than not a single recount of votes brought Gore closer than 236 of being president.

Hmmm.... I think you're missing the point (lets assume the recounts were correct) it's not the votes that were allowed that's the issue, it's the ones that couldn't be made, the thousands of voters ("you can tell them by the colour of their skin", the ones less likely to vote for Bush) that had their vote taken away (by a company employed by Bush) before they could vote, this was unconstitutional but despite many, many complaints their vote was denied (and not a single senator would support the objections), if they were allowed to vote then Gore would (in all probabality, but of course you never really know) have more than enough votes to win Florida and therefore the presidency.

So, their consitutional right to vote was taken away with no redress, this affected the presidency and therefore the world, OK Gore might have messed things up worse, maybe signing Kyoto would have been a bad thing, maybe he would have done all the dubious things Bush did, but he didn't get the opportunity because the consitution was ignored.

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I'll show you mine if you show me yours...

... was all very well when it was just two kids exploring, but when that turns into humiliation because when girls who (stupidly) trusted their boyfriends enough to send them a sexy photo find that photo all around the school, it turns into something way more sinister and has caused harm in the past.

You may be willing for your daughter to explore like that with a boy, but do you want a compromising photo being sent all around the school? Put on Facebook and Twitter and YouTube?

However, education not prosecution, is the better solution.

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Unhappy

The wider issue

Have to agree. Surely the new('ish) media have changed the game. In the melting pot of today's services - social nitworking / ubiquitous hand held cameras / photo uploading et al and where supposed anonymity can be used - does society not have to offer some controls?

How many times have we seen reports of kids exploited and pressurised to extreme acts because of similar usage? Are we to expect youngsters to moderate their own activity?

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Anonymous Coward

utter bs

With all due respect mate... You 're so full of it that you could have been used to power a biogas plant.

You went to some extremely tame school I guess where the girls did not maintain diaries and "lexicon" books. In my days those used to contain a lot of stuff that will _NEVER_ make it onto facebook today.

The equivalent of "sending it around the school" was to pinch the diary out of the bag and guess what - send it around the school. We have all done that. The ones who did not stay with glazed eyes in nerd central asking "how do you spell girl" of course...

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Unhappy

Just the popylar ones

Sir,

I named YouTube, Facebook et al but these are just the more popular 'above ground' websites. Ask your mum to turn off your parental controls and you'll find there's a lot of stuff out there which allows for the kind of bullying I described.

And I repeat, education (that's EDUCATION) is the better way to deal with this - educating children in the same way we educate them in terms of what to eat, don't talk to strangers, read good books, don't take drugs, don't kill and do be nice to people.

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Education

>> You may be willing for your daughter to explore like that with a boy, but do you want a

>> compromising photo being sent all around the school? Put on Facebook and Twitter and

>> YouTube?

Seriously, you prefer for your daughter to be sent on a compulsory re-education course - or even be labelled as a sex offender.

>> education not prosecution, is the better solution.

Funny, that's exactly what the DA in the article seems to think. The DA was attempting to coerce the girl into a mandatory 9 month education program, rather than prosecute her - for posing in her swimming costume (which you would know if you read the article).

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Stop

@Richard 10

Okay, yes. Education. But for the kind of harm you describe, two conditions are necessary.

1. The existence of naked pictures.

2. The belief that said pictures are a horrible shameful thing.

We could attempt to "educate away" either condition.

Since teens exploring their sexuality has been a constant throughout history, and cultural attitudes about nudity come and go, perhaps you're going after the wrong one.

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Big Brother

Not so different here

We have the same sort of blunt-instrument child porn laws here.

It's a bad idea to allow non-adults to be in the porn business, but classing somebody old enough to marry as a child is a ridiculous way to go about it. On what I've seen, going after a few teen boys who pass around such pictures would do more good. That's where the malice could come in.

That DA was trying to create thought-crime.

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The message is still "Don't do this".

I don't think there's much room to be equivocal on that - except on the matter of "provocative". That's almost in the eye of the beholder, and the beholden, and may be very subtle - or not. Just... don't push it. At all.

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@Richard10

No, you don't want pix sent round the school. However, prosecuting the girl and her parents for creating kiddy porn is completely unjustifiable. It ruins the girl's life forever by giving her a criminal record that'll guarantee she never gets to college and never gets a job; and the same for the parents. It also leaves them all open to vigilante action, when people find out there are "sex offenders" in the neighbourhood under Megan's Law.

In other words, it's utterly inexcusable. Anything else isn't a "better solution", because the DA's actions can't ever, under any circumstances whatsoever, be regarded as a solution.

And as regards vigilante action, it's things like that which lead to revenge killings. I know for sure that if I was that kid's dad and the appeal had failed, I'd be round the lawyer's house with an axe handle; and he's very lucky that the kid's dad was restrained enough to go for the legal option first. With a child-molesting prosecution on your criminal record, manslaughter is pretty secondary.

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Paris Hilton

Allegations

Pictures, or it didn't happen.

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Boffin

What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Anyone misread his name as "shmuck?"

<--- I'll get new glasses one of these days

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WTF?

Do not want.

I'm 33 and I have a four year old little girl. I sincerely hope she will osmose from daddy and mommy enough to never do this on her own. But if she did, she'd be grounded, the computer hacked and images deleted. Being sexy is not a virtue. And it has no real value for good people.

People who put too much value on sex are usually not very good people. I certainly wouldn't want to say to my daughter "that so sweet this porn star look you took in the picture". It just doesn't rime. When you cut the bullshit and think of your kids, you really want your kids to do that? Would you really like that? I don't think so. This cultural thing of anything goes = freedom is a gross aberation of a paper written by people who had no clue their descendants would become such fucktards.

It is now fashionable to label me as a prude, or conservative, or anything, because I don't jump up and down like a good troll when decency loses in court. Have at it, fucktards.

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@Dubuc

I agree...

but I would wonder if they are not far down the slippery slope and would one day reach the epic level of "hey check this out, these girls have taken shots of each other at the beach and their only 13, it's pR0n, my god, it's an epic 0r6y... let's prosecute them"... Something completely innocent like that.

A few other things I have been thinking about:

1. Consider that the mass media to my mind is making children more precocious than ever. Mostly to sell stuff of course, I would venture. My god, you should see some of the crap pre-teens are exposed to these days. This is somehow ok, though.

2. Someone mentioned Afghanistan. Consider for a moment other cultures where it's ok to send away your 12-14 year old to become an uneducated subservient baby factory under a shroud.

No conclusions.

Just food for thought.

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Troll

All that may be

but would you want her forever listed as a child pornographer and sex offender for it? these kind of threats would be silly if they weren't so serious, and long-lasting. That becomes a matter of public record and never goes away.

Furthermore, why should your opinion on what your daughter should be doing matter legally? It is your perogitive (indeed, it could be argued, duty) as a parent to instill your values in your child, but other parents should be afforeded similar protection. It's not the place of the DA to determine how the child should be parented to this degree.

There was a time when that was understood, and social norms where maintained ostrisizing those who did not feel the need to follow them. Now we see people trying to create laws to do it. The problem is not everyone is in agreement as to what is "moral" (beyond the basics).

The law is a very blunt insterment, and not approprite for enforceing morality. Social norms should be enforeced by social systems, not legal systems. Leave the legal systems for cases where someone is actively hurting someone else.

And I think that calling everyone who does not share your opinion that a child should be branded for life as a sexual predator because of pictures she took of herself as a "Fucktard" qualifies you as the troll.

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Don't be daft

We aren't talking about 4 year olds here, we are talking about teenagers. Surprisingly enough, having reached puberty, teenagers develop an interest in sex - it's called growing up. Additional aspects of teenage development include rebellion against parents and other authority figures - and the experimentation with all kinds of things which they have been told to no to do. Maybe it is the refusal to acknowledge this that gives the USA and UK the highest teenage pregnancy rates amongst developed nations.

For the record, the case did not concern home computers but mobile phones and pictures sent between some teenage friends. The DA didn't care about moral standards or rights - he tried to blackmail these teenagers with the threat of convictions that would leave them as marked paedophiles for life. It was wrong and an abuse of power.

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